Can You Go To The Grocery Store Without Having A Panic Attack?

Oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god.

What the hell is tahini?

The aisles are crumbling around me. How am I supposed to make hummus if I don’t have tahini? The world will explode and my girlfriend will leave me if I don’t have something to dip our peppers in. It’ll be a sign of greater incompetence, a garlicky red flag that exposes my inability to hunt and gather. Why would anyone ever love somebody who can’t piece together a simple chickpea spread?

I wipe the sweat off my palms and take out my pocket computer, turning to Saint Google for answers. Turns out tahini is actually a sesame paste. This is a thing I now know. I miss the days when I used that brain space to dream up dreams instead, but here we are in the condiment aisle and I suppose this is finally adulthood.

Oh. Look who it is. Kale. I shoot it a dirty glance. You think you’re so damn popular, don’t you? I know the truth. You’re nothing more than a dolled up veggie whore, spreading your leaves for any dish that comes your way. Have you no restraint? There’s only room for one leafy green in my heart, and her name is Romaine. Why can’t we commit to something as simple as lettuce?

Jesus, what are these Tunisian dates made of? Gold? How could a package of obese raisins possibly cost $7.99? They must have been hand-plucked from the…date trees (??) of North Africa, fairly traded and express-shipped to my grocer by one of Amazon’s new prototype delivery drones. It’s the only explanation. I put two packages in my basket.

I’ll be stuffing those with cheese. I’d usually feel at home in the cheese aisle, but that was back in my small town where things were simpler and I was stronger. Cracker Barrel. Old cheddar. Give me the big brick. It was an easy choice, but here in the sprawling dairy-infested confines of the big city, the options are overwhelming; row upon row of wheels and wedges resting proudly behind the sturdy glass partisan. Camemberts and Goudas, French and English, smoked and double-baked. It’s just one tiny insignificant example of all the things I’ll never understand, and suddenly Brie is the least of my problems.

Oh, look! Skinless boneless chicken breasts are on sale!

Come to think of it, I should probably get some lunch stuff. I’ll start with bread. White bread is bad. I learned this. It is the oppressor of the wheat world. Whole grain is far more popular now, anyways. Something to do with affirmative action? Uh oh. Was that a really racist bread joke? Oh god. I hope the pumpernickel didn’t hear me. Just grab the least appetizing loaf and head for zee hills.

Woa woa woa – stop the clock. They’re making bread out of quinoa now? Bullshit! I thought for sure this tragic quinoa storm was passing, but now it’s proliferating into brand extensions and invading other staples. This must stop. We must burn all the quinoa. It’s new and different and has an unfamiliar texture. I run away from things like quinoa. They can’t hurt you if you never give yourself a chance to love them.

Tonight’s recipe calls for apricot jam, but that’s just not going to happen. Too intimidating. Countless ingredients fall under this designation, including coconut oil, cardamom, and whole cloves. Better move on to the next items on my list: herbs. Why such big bunches? Don’t they know I only need two teaspoons of fresh oregano? Damn the fat cats at Big Grocery! They say cooking at home is a great way to save money, but every time I shop for a decent dinner I end up spending the equivalent of twelve Big Macs on quickly expiring ingredients.

It’s time to pay and I’m exhausted. I crawl to the finish line and the lady at the express checkout kindly ignores my two-item overage. “Do you need bags?” Yes. More than you can possibly imagine. I’m not the kind of person who responsibly maintains a fabric shopping bag collection. Someday maybe, but not today.

Alas, one of the plastic handles snaps as I’m walking home. Am I carrying too much? Maybe I do need some stronger bags. Maybe it’s time I stop cutting corners. Maybe I should buy that goddamn apricot jam for once in my life. Maybe – just maybe – if I took five extra minutes to put some honest attentive care into something, anything, I might be pleasantly surprised at what ends up on my plate.

After all, you can only make the same stir fry so many times before it all starts to taste the same. And then, like the table cream I’ve left in my fridge for far too long, it all begins to sour – curdling at the back of the shelf where you can’t quite see it, out of sight and mind until its wretched stench becomes too much to ignore.

Maybe I should just get another frozen pizza. TC mark

image – Nicholas Eckhart

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